03.04.2007 | Tamara Polishchuk

Fragments of the System


Events over the last months suggest that a mass onslaught has begun in Kharkiv against all things Ukrainian. There is no lack of examples. Emotions have still not calmed over the attempt to destroy the Memorial to UPA [Ukrainian Resistance Army] Soldiers in Kharkiv.. The city newspaper “Sloboda”, whose name is associated with free Ukrainians who settled and defended our area, beginning from the sixteenth century, has stopped coming out. The art café “OstaNNya barykada” [“The last barricade”], an island of national culture in russified Kharkiv, has closed.  The city court ruling on supporting the position of the Russian language in the region is presented, as if a trophy, to the angered and disillusioned public.

However the worst case against all that is Ukrainian has been the aggressive and arrogant defamation of people involved in producing the collection of documentary testimony entitled “Capital of Despair. Holodomor 1932-1933 in the accounts of witnesses”.

On that day in February when the whole country was in festive mood and thinking about love, I was unexpectedly called to the city police station. Without any preliminary explanation, I was asked: “Do you have any connection with the book “Capital of Despair”? Having confirmed my involvement, I learned that a Kharkiv resident had approached the law enforcement bodies with the serious demand that criminal charges be brought against me for a serious crime – inciting inter-ethnic enmity.

The police officers were polite and a short statement in writing that the material which I had gathered and published on Holodomor in the Kharkiv region (there are around 200 documents) did not incite enmity was enough for them. They let me go but asked that I provide a copy of the book which had so infuriated this person. The latter proved to be a senior councillor of justice and War invalid, I. T. Shekhovtsov.

It later transpired that Ivan Timofiyovych had made the same accusations against V.P. Naumenko, the editor of the journal “Berezil” which published “Capital of Despair”, as well as Professor V.V. Kalinichenko, Head of the Department of Ukrainian History at the Kharkiv Karamzin National University, who wrote the introduction to the book.

It should be mentioned that of the three of us, Professor Kalinichenko suffered the most. Shekhovtsov did not confine himself to a complaint to the law enforcement bodies, but together with his circle organized a real witch hunt against the Professor. At the end of last year, seemingly with the permission of the Kharkiv city authorities, a picket was organized outside the National University. Its participants saw fit to indulge in acts of hooliganism and outrageous utterances defaming the well-known Ukrainian historian. As the leaflet distributed that day (the details on it say that 1500 copies were produced on copying equipment of the regional committee of the Communist Party), showed, the picketers including the omnipresent I. T. Shekhovtsov. Some of the more enraged picketers even burst into the university yelling “Come out, coward!”, “Come out you swine!”. They began pounding and kicking at the historian’s door apparently to call him out for an ideological duel with the same I. T. Shekhovtsov. Taking advantage of its being dark already, a group of youths hounded Professor Kalinichenko with impunity on the street as well.

The psychological attack on the Professor was crowned by an appeal by deputies to the Rector of the University V.S. Bakirov, presented in the worst traditions of the 1930s. Its author, Deputy of the Kharkiv Regional Council P.V. Tyshchenko demanded that the Rector use his influence against the historian for “his attacks against the Soviet authorities, Joseph Stalin and other leaders of the Soviet State, by accusing them of organizing Holodomor and genocide of the Ukrainian people”. Making a clumsy attempt to discredit Professor Kalinichenko, the Deputy stated: “I know definitely that calling the famine of 1932-1933 genocide won’t achieve anything, either for dead or living Ukrainians, but can do enormous damage to our relations with our brotherly Russian nation, which will suit our permanent enemies”. The people’s representative asked that the response not be addressed to him personally, but to the entire regional council.

It was mentioned that Tyshchenko had been present at the presentation of the book in my native Valky, but had not dared ask for a chance to express his disagreement with its content, deciding that it was better to hide behind his “senior colleague” as he calls Shekhovtsov in his deputy’s appeal.

Having read the Kharkiv regional communist newspaper “Krasnoye znamya” [“Red banner”], I understood fully who I was dealing with. Shekhovtsov considers himself virtually the main defender of Stalin in the former Soviet Union.  In the newspaper, Shekhovtsov blithely boasts that he has trodden on the toes “of doctors of history and philosophy” who tried to oppose him at the first political trial in the “Stalin case”, supposedly in Moscow itself. Shekhovtsov is also proud that in 2004 a whole four-volume work came out defending the Soviet tyrant with the telling title: “The Stalin case: the “criminal” and his “defendant”. According to the author, his book is made up of “material from the investigation and court addresses” with regard to the “anti-Stalin hysteria”.

I don’t know what wind blew “comrade” Shekhovtsov to our fertile land, however from the complaint to the law enforcement bodies one can understand that he has lived in Ukraine almost as long as the amount of time that separates us from Holodomor. – 76 years. It seems that he does not know about 1933 though other people’s accounts, but from his own eyes. Why then be round about?  Is it perhaps because in excusing Stalin and his henchmen, he is trying to justify himself? What were you, Ivan Timofiyovych Shekhovtsov , doing in Ukraine during Holodomor, which you refer to with undisguised irony, using inverted commas?

Having plunged into the thick of political games, the senior councillor of justice reaches a peak of legal mastery, or more accurately – blasphemy. In a statement to the Prosecutor General published in the newspaper, he calls himself a “victim”, apparently because the book “Capital of Despair” caused him “deep psychological suffering and incomparable moral damage” (no more or less!)

While Shekhovtsov prepared his complaints, the communist faction in the Kharkiv Regional Council (including the head of the council’s commission on human rights, freedom of speech and mass information, L.P. Strizhko) weren’t just twiddling their thumbs. At the end of last year, they succeeded in having an official statement put on the agenda for the next session containing an attempt to revise the Law “On Holodomor 1932-1933” only just passed by the Verkhovna Rada and signed by the President.

Although this unheard of attempt failed abysmally (with the majority not supporting the statement), the precedent remains. This was a precedent not only of public contempt for the memory of the people, but also of arrogant impunity, legal nihilism and unrestrained disregard for Ukrainian legislation.

The conclusion seems obvious that the Kharkiv communists, while calling themselves Ukrainian communists, are in fact continuing to fight for the “great All-Soviet Communist Party (Bolshevik)”, which longs for a return to the old ways and revenge. Otherwise they would be obliged to know and at least consider the position of the Communist Party of Ukraine which back in 1990 condemned Stalinism, distanced itself from his criminal policy and gave its approval for a documentary anthology: “The Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine: through the eyes of historians and in the language of the documents”, prepared by the then Institute of the History of the Party, attached to the Central Committee of the CPU. This published for the first time only recently declassified archival material which showed the real causes, chronology and consequences of the tragedy.

In the Central Committee’s resolution from 26 January 1990 “On the Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine and the publication of archival documents linked with it”, which opens the collection, we read:

The “Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine resolves

to recognize the Famine of 1932-1933 to have been a true tragedy of the people, the consequences of the criminal direction taken by Stalin and his immediate circle (Molotov and Kaganovich) against the peasantry;

to condemn the unprincipled policy of the leadership of the republic at the time (Kosior, Chubar) in carrying out the grain requisitions;

to decisively distance ourselves from the violent and repressive methods for resolving issues of social development”.

However the “Russian person” (as Shekhovtsov calls himself in his statement to the Prosecutor General) and his Kharkiv comrades have their own view on life. They were particularly outraged by those pages of the book “Capital of Despair” in which witnesses recall incidents where people from Russia were resettled in the Kharkiv region after it had been devastated by the manmade famine. They saw in this an attempt to create dissent between Russians and Ukrainians, to spread animosity and to “divide the Slavonic peoples”. What hypocrisy!

Should you not have reason to know, “dear comrades”, that the Russian people, just as the Ukrainian, are guilty at least of having allowed power in our former common state to be seized by a bunch of cynical and ruthless criminals who under the guise of “the struggle for a glorious future”, doomed millions to untold suffering, hardship and terrible death.

In speculating on some kind of cooling in relations between Russia and Ukraine and fiddling the facts, Shekhovtsov and his likeminded comrades have only one aim – to silence those inconvenient voices, intimidate them, stir up the Russian-speaking population and as a consequence, provoke an escalation of just that inter-ethnic enmity that they are supposedly speaking out against.

For over 60 years the System, whose fragments are epitomized today in Kharkiv by Shekhovtsov and his mates, tried to erase from human right the terrible truth about Holodomor. It did not work. Angry and unwarranted attacks on the people involved in producing “Capital of Despair” yet again demonstrate one thing alone – the death throes of the System. The brutal truth is the most terrible thing in human history and the extermination of a nation touches the hearts and minds of an ever increasing number of people not only here, but in the world community. And that means that history’s Judgment is near!

Tamara Polishchuk

Compiler of “Capital of despair”, member of the National Union of Ukrainian Journalists

From the author: having made use of the explanations given by I. T. Shekhovtsov, the most legally prepared of my opponents, in accordance with the law (Articles 94 and 97 of the Criminal Procedure Code), I would ask that this article be grounds for launching a criminal investigation under Articles 161, 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine and Article 2 of the Law on Holodomor 1932-1933.


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