Not surprisingly, the Russian foreign ministry has lashed out at the film’s suggestion that what occurred was “a Holodomor” or “a genocide” and insisted that Moscow did not target the Kazakhs or any other nation and that all Soviet peoples, including the Russians, suffered (
. The first refers to famine arising from conflicts among various peoples; the second refers to that and also to the greater tragedy of organized mass murder. It is thus more appropriate.
Stalin and the Soviet leadership knew what they were doing and what was happening because of what they had done. They thus were engaged in a conscious policy of genocide, Mamay says; and they must be held accountable by history for their actions. Trying to muddy the waters is a betrayal of the nation’s memory.
The film focuses on five issues: the massive famine of 1921-22, the impact of collectivization and sedentarization, mass risings against Soviet power, the horrors of death by hunger, and finally the assessment of these events which must be called “by their own names: this was a policy of genocide!”
Figures are much in dispute, but the closest to the truth is contained in the famous “letter of the six,” published in the 1930s. It spoke about the demise of 49 percent of the Kazakh population as a result of Soviet policies. But those were only direct losses. In addition, more than a million fled to other countries, including China and Afghanistan.
As to the ethnic composition of the victims, it was overwhelmingly Kazakh. But of the 2.2 million who died in Kazakhstan during the terror famine, 250,000 consisted of others, including Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Tatars and others. But of the one million who died in the 1920s, almost all were Kazakhs, as were the million who fled the republic.
Kazakhs resisted and formed armed groups, but in 1929-1931, it is not correct to say that they were seeking independence: they only wanted collectivization as Stalin was imposing it to be stopped. There were no longer any national leaders who could have organized a broader form of resistance: they had all be killed before then.
Another indication of how alienated these events left the Kazakhs was that the Red Army was not allowed to take in ethnic Kazakhs as soldiers and officers at that time, not because the commanders did not want them, but because the political leadership in Moscow refused to allow this to happen.