Russian invaders vandalize and plunder remembrance of Holodomor in occupied Ukraine
On 25 November, Ukrainians throughout the world marked the 90th anniversary of Holodomor, the manmade Famine of 1932-33, by lighting candles in memory of the millions of victims. While more and more countries are united with Ukraine in recognizing Holodomor as an act of genocide, Russia is attacking historical memory as part of its present genocidal war of aggression against Ukraine.
The Russian invaders occupying the Ivanivka Hromada in Kherson oblast have boasted and posted photos of their destruction of at least fourteen memorials to Victims of Holodomor, which they preface with the word ‘so-called’. In reposting these shocking images, notes that the perpetrators wore masks, making it impossible to identify them.
Worth noting that such efforts to destroy historical memory did not stop the Russian invaders from committing an act of primitive plunder. In the last days before Kherson was liberated on 11 November 2022, the Russians . These included a powerful painting by Ukrainian artist Maria Schneider-Seniuk entitled ‘the 1930s in Ukraine’ and clearly remembering the victims of Holodomor.
Attacks on historical memory are nothing new for the current Russian regime, and it is not surprising that they have been a part of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine since 2014. After months of relentless bombing and shelling brought Mariupol under Russian occupation, the invaders destroyed the Memorial to the Victims of Holodomor in Mariupol. “The Russians are continuing to destroy everything that is linked with Ukraine, our culture, history and heritage”, Petro Andriushchenko, Adviser to the Mayor of Mariupol, .
The attacks preceded Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ deciding in 2015 to dismantle the Memorial to the Victims of Political Repression and Holodomor in Snizhne (Donetsk oblast). They claimed then that this was to “reinstate historical justice”.
The excuses given for dismantling the Memorial in Mariupol were even more cynical. The Monument, made from granite, was next to the Drama Theatre which the Russians bombed on 16 March. That attack was carried out although it was known that around a thousand residents of the city were seeking refuge in the building, and the word ‘CHILDREN’ was written, in Russian and in large letters, in front and behind.
The invaders even produced a propaganda video in which fake ‘Mariupol residents’ expressed support for dismantling the Monument. The alleged aim was to use the granite for construction work. Over a year later, major parts of the city remain in ruins and those apartment blocks in the centre which have been rebuilt are for sale, and not for the owners of the homes that Russian destroyed.
The regime under Russian president Vladimir Putin has, in fact, been aggressively trying to rewrite history since at least 2007. Moscow reacted extremely aggressively to measures in Ukraine aimed at recognizing Holodomor as an act of genocide and remembering its victims. At the time, the hysteria seemed somewhat strange since the Soviet regime, and Stalin, in particular, had committed multiple crimes, and nobody was suggesting that their only victims had been the victims of Holodomor in Ukraine.
From 2014, Russia’s invasion and military aggression against Ukraine led to a ferocious intensification of Moscow’s war against historical truth. One of the motives is, doubtless, to justify its aggression, and lay claim to Ukrainian territory, history and culture. Russia moved very swiftly to eradicate all that was Ukrainian from schools and public life in occupied Crimea, and the same result was achieved in the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk and Luhansk republics’ by 2020
As well as rewriting the history books, especially those for schools, Russia is also seeking to eliminate all that is Ukrainian in any part of Ukraine that has fallen under its occupation. Documents found after Balakliya in Kharkiv oblast was liberated in the second half of 2022 demonstrated that lists had been drawn up almost immediately to remove Ukrainian language and literature from schools. In occupied Luhansk oblast, they put together a list of Ukrainian history books and works of literature banned as ‘extremist’, with this including books about Holodomor and books on Ukrainian history by internationally renowned historians, like Serhiy Plokhiy and Yaroslav Hrytsak. Historical truth about the origins of Kyivan Rus and much more clashes with Moscow’s ‘Russian world’ mythology and it is telling that the letter that accompanied the above list advised the recipients to remove all works referring to Holodomor, even if not specifically named, as well as any works on Ukrainian history.