Some 76 years after famine killed millions in the Soviet Union, a West Virginia University historians work debunking theories the USSR intentionally caused the food shortage is at the heart of intense debate between Russia and Ukraine.
Mark Tauger , an associate professor in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences , concludes in his book that claims the former Soviet Union engineered the 1933 famine are exaggerated. He further argues that the food shortage was not an act of genocide.
Taugers findings, which are controversial in academic circles, are based on harvest data recorded by peasants who were members of Soviet collective farms.
His bookFamine, Man-made Famine, Genocide?is a collection of articles previously published in the United States and two new pieces written for Ukrainian audiences. 2000, an independent newspaper in the Ukraine capital of Kiev, is the publisher and translator of the book.
Tauger recently participated in a high-level academic meeting with Ukrainian scholars and parliament deputies while in Kiev promoting his book. During his visit, he discovered people are divided over the question of whether the famine was an act of genocidea theory espoused by Ukrainian political leaders.
I found it very significant that citizens of Ukraine are divided in their views of the famine despite the Ukrainian governments efforts to enforce a single point of view,said Tauger, who studies agrarian history with a focus on the former Soviet Union and India.
At the time of the 1933 famine, the Ukraine was part of the Soviet empire. Today, it is a sovereign nation within the Commonwealth of Independent States, an organization of former Soviet republics.
While in Kiev, Tauger lectured on certain aspects of his research on famines in India, Russia and the USSR , with a particular focus on the problems of the genocide interpretation of the 1933 famine.
Tauger said Ukrainian scholars and politicians responded to his presentation of his work with extremely divided and politicized views over the history and significance of the famine as it affected Ukraine as well as Russias responsibility, Tauger said.
One current political poster showed to me had a picture related to the famine and the words �€~Russia repent,he added.
According to many analysts of Ukrainian politics, the nations politicians are using commemoration of the famine to create a national identity around the mass starvation as genocide and Russia as the perpetrator, Tauger said.
It is difficult, however, to gauge the motives of politicians involved in the current debate, he added.
Many of the intellectuals and politicians involved in this debate have known each other for decades,he said.Some of the most vociferous supporters of the genocide theory were once hard-line Communist Party members who vehemently opposed the theory, so its hard to say whether or not their conversion on the genocide is genuine or a political maneuver.
Taugers work on the Soviet famines is part of larger series of projects on agrarian history.
He is currently working on three books related to these topics: an introductory world history of agriculture; a study of famines in Russian and Soviet history; and an analysis of the numerous famines in India during World War II and their consequences for agriculture and policy in early independent India.
Tauger has been a faculty member in the WVU Department of History since 1992. He has a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from the University of California, Los Angeles.