Stalin Famine Apologist: Drive to Revoke Controversial
Simon, Chris. "Stalin Famine Apologist: Drive to Revoke Controversial Pulitzer Posthumously." What’s On, 16 May 2003, 23.
Laying quietly and almost forgotten, underneath the euphoria of
Labour Day and Victory Celebrations is the fact that 70 years ago,
May 1933, was the `high-water' mark in the infamous man-made famine
that killed millions of Ukrainian men, women and children.
|Forced famine: Even as the dead littered
Ukrainiana city streets, Duranty defended Stalin's cruelty,
infamously explaining that `broken eggs' were needed to make
This controversial famine was allegedly part of a war waged by
the state against peasant farmers, who were loathed by Josef Stalin
because they were hostile towards communism. Stalin also regarded
the Ukrainian peasantry as the cradle for nationalist tendencies
aimed at breaking Ukraine away from the Soviet Union.
In 1932 and 1933, Stalin was reported to have imposed crippling
demands on peasants for grain and other foodstuffs, which were extracted
by brute force and executions. By the spring of 1933, people in
the Ukraine were reduced to eating grass, tree bark, earthworms
and anything else they could find. There were hundreds of cases
of cannibalism in a country with some of the world's most fertile
farmland, and at its climax an estimated 25,000 people were starving
to death each day.
To mark this ominous event wherein as many as 10 million were killed
and underscore it's rightful place in history along side the holocaust
and political purges of the time, a Ukrainian-American group has
begun a highly visible and vocal postcard campaign aimed at taking
back the 1932 Pulitzer Prize awarded to controversial New York Times
Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty. Duranty, among the first recipients
of the coveted prize, received the famous award for his overall
coverage of the Soviet Five-Year Plan, has been labeled an `apologist',
by his numerous critics, for knowingly downplaying the forced starvation.
The Prize committee, which had been handing out the awards since
1917, said that Duranty's work was "marked by scholarship,
profundity, impartiality, sound judgment and exceptional clarity."
|"While others saw the mass starvation
in Russia during the great Ukrainian famine of the 1930s...Duranty
filed dispatch after dispatch dismissing these negative reports."
The only problem with that judgment according to Tamara Gallo of
the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America was that Duranty's stories
were all fiction. "While others saw the mass starvation in
Russia during the great Ukrainian famine of the 1930s - which Stalin
created to crush millions of poor peasants who resisted collectivization
- Duranty filed dispatch after dispatch dismissing these negative
reports" she says. She is not alone in her condemnation of
Duranty and the call for the posthumous removal of his award which
is still proudly displayed on the New York Times website.
Malcolm Muggeridge, then the Manchester Guardian's Moscow correspondent
said, "Duranty was the greatest liar of any journalist I have
ever met". Muggeridge was well known by colleagues to have
traveled secretly and at great personal risk throughout Ukraine
reporting on the scenes of mass starvation and heaps of dead bodies
that he witnessed and he described them in his reports.
British Historian Robert Conquest has even joined the call saying
that the press should learn from Duranty's story. "Duranty
played an important role in covering up the famine and he should
be exposed again and again and again," he said.
Ukraine politicians and academics and Ukrainian communities in
Britain, Canada, the US and Australia have joined the UCCA call
and have started to bombard the Pulitzer offices with postcards
demanding that the award be revoked.
Duranty's supporters say the accusations are unfair and that `jealously'
over Duranty's access to top Soviet officials led to charges of
being an official `apologist' for the Stalin's brutal regime. In
fact it was Duranty's access that led him to grab the first ever
interview with Stalin for an American publication. In response to
the just started postcard campaign, Sig Gissler of the Pulitzer
Board continued to defend the award saying that it was awarded for
a story unconnected with the famine, which is doing very little
to satisfy the complaints of the Ukrainian community abroad.
Even Duranty himself admitted, albeit quietly, that his reports
did not disclose the whole truth. British Foreign Office documents
show that Duranty confided to a diplomat at the British Embassy
in Moscow that he believed around 10 million people had perished
in the famine, while at the same time telling his New York Times'
readers a different story. When stories about the famine began to
surface in Moscow, Duranty dismissed them as "exaggerated or
malignant propaganda". When the Great Purge trials took place,
Duranty was accused by colleagues of `towing the Soviet line and
taking the trials at face value'. In fact an expression often used
today in casual conversation was made famous by Duranty. While reporting
on the now well-known `sham' trials of the accused traitors to the
revolution, he wrote in defense of Stalin's crimes "you can't
make an omelet without breaking eggs." Some say between the
purges and the famine, tens of millions of eggs were broken and
as recent history has proven with the collapse of the Soviet Union
the omelet was never made.