Staunton, June 26 – In Soviet times, no honest discussion of the terror famine Stalin unleashed on the population in the early 1930s was possible. Since 1991, with the independence of Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the governments and scholars of those countries have described the horrors of this act of genocide and attracted international attention to it.
But those who suffered from this particular Stalinist crime but who do not have a government to support scholarly research or work to attract international condemnation have had a harder time of it. Often heroic individual researchers have done a great deal, they have not had the impact of the Ukrainian and Kazakh efforts.
One of these peoples which was very much a primary victim of Stalin’s terror famine but which does not yet have its own state and therefore lacks equally powerful means to attract attention to its victimhood in this case are the Cossacks who like the Ukrainians were targeted not only because they were peasants but also for ethnic reasons as well.
On the All-Cossack Social Center portal, Cossack activist Aleksandr Dzikovitsky surveys the increasingly rich literature on the way in which the Soviet state carried out collectivization and the terror famine in Cossack regions, killing hundreds of thousands and deporting tens of thousands of others (voccentr.info/umershhvlenie-kazakov-golodom/).
This research shows the Soviets applied many of the same tactics against the Cossacks that they had against Ukrainians and Kazakhs as well. But what is especially important, given the continuing controversy about whether Stalin was animated by class or nationality, these sources provide additional evidence that ethnic concerns animated him almost as much as class ones.
Ye.N. Oskolkov, a Rostov historian who died in 1995, concluded that “the leadership of the party and the state sought to give their forcible actions in the North Caucasus Kray an anti-Cossack character,” treating Cossacks far worse than the surrounding ethnic Russian areas (rslovar.com/content/профессор-евгений-осколков-ростовский-историк-аграрник).
Understanding this is important not only for any serious assessment of Stalin’s crimes but also for the Cossacks themselves, Dzikovitsky says. As Obninsk activist V.N. Salazkin argues, “Don and Kuban Cossacks must put the question just as Ukrainians do” lest they be led astray and fight for Russian forces in the Donbass “against a Ukraine striving for democracy.”