Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe.


In the next few articles I have the ambition to put things into context and narratives that are normally quite hard to see if you do not have any cultural or historical connection with Central and Eastern Europe. Also, in the western bloc, there was not a profound education about the eastern bloc and vice versa. I think it is crucial in today's political situation to see Ukraine for what the Ukraine really is. It is simply not some oriental country in Europe. The Ukraine has an unbelievably rich and ancient history. Ukrainians are welcoming, strong, hard working, always help each other and consider all people around them to be their best friends. Indeed, they love large groups and gatherings around them.

The etymology of the name of Ukraine has a few possible meanings even though the root meaning comes from the Slavic word krai/kraj. Krai/kraj has various meanings and can mean e.g. border or edge. In Czech, we can say "na kraji stolu" which has the meaning of 'at the edge of the table', but also our country is divided into "kraje" which is similar to different counties in Ireland. We also say "krajina" which means landscape. 

Therefore, the essential meaning of Ukraine is 'The land at the edge' which highlights the current political situation with respect to Europe and Russia. The edge of our democratic and liberal world. 

The eastern bloc and the USSR are sometimes confused. Czechoslovakia, as it was then, now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania were part of the Eastern bloc but not part of the USSR. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a union of republics, and  together they created one state. The USSR was part of the Eastern bloc. Members of the USSR included Russia, The Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Putin's propaganda and accusations which state that Ukrainians are fascists and nationalists are based on the idea that Ukrainians don't have a right to an independent state and that an independent Ukraine is a threat to Russian safety. These purely manipulative and arrogant lies are created  to create a conflict and hatred between Russians and Ukrainians. They are simply imperialistic which have an intention to restore the USSR as it was. The majority of Russians believe Putin. One would wonder why? 

Well, if we think that the cold war has ended which may be in our minds, it is not in Putin's mind. In Russia, the narratives continuously keep a tone that the West is a threat and danger to the Russian megalomaniac identity. 

Russia has never really had an independent media. Indeed, this is, at least, the 5th generation of Russians suffering continuous propaganda. Added to that is any opposition is persecuted. The Soviet obsession with their view that their opinion is the only right opinion has led to more people being killed than the Nazis could ever have envisioned. We are just humans after all! 

We, as humans, are continuously adapting to the environment we live in. If you grow up in a stable environment where freedom, truth, compassion, and responsibility are the basic moral pillars of society, that is who you become. If you grow up in an unstable environment which is full of fear, mind control and propaganda, that's how your self-identity gets distorted.

Some people try to justify Putin's actions by pointing to America's imperial tendencies. Well, to fight imperialism with imperialism is similar to 'fucking to find virginity'. It does not work. The export of 'American democracy' is not the justification for the export of 'Russian supremacy'.

Russian respective soviet government has a long history of bullying Ukraine. Sometimes, they were  using very similar methods that the English did in Ireland. Ukrainians also had their great famine...

The Ukrainian Famine Holodomor

In Ukrainian, the word 'Holodomor' means 'dead by hunger'. It is derived from the compound of the word "holod" which means hunger and "mor" which means plague. In Czech, we similarly say 'hladomor'. 

This famine affected Ukrainians together with Moldavians in the Spring of 1932 and also from February to July 1933 with the most victims recorded in the Spring of 1933. The consequences are evident from demographic statistics, i.e. between 1926 and 1939, the Ukrainian population increased by only 6.6%, whereas Russia and Belarus grew by 16.9% and 11.7%, respectively. According to the findings of the Court of Appeal of Kyiv in 2010, the demographic losses caused by the famine amounted to 10 million people, with 3.9 million being a direct result of the famine. Further, 6.1 million birth defects are attributed to the famine. Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by Ukraine and 15 other countries as a genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by the Soviet government.

Between 1929-30, a collectivisation policy was enforced in the Ukraine which led to an extreme crisis and which contributed to the famine. Peasants were forced to transfer land and livestock to state-owned farms. Indeed, those peasants had to work as day-labourers on their own land. Collectivization in the Soviet Union, including the Ukraine, was not popular among the peasantry and forced collectivisation led to numerous peasant revolts. The first five-year plan changed the output expected from Ukrainian farms, from the familiar crop of grain to unfamiliar crops like sugar beets and cotton. In addition, the situation was exacerbated by poor administration of the plan and the lack of relevant general management. Significant amounts of grain remained unharvested, and-even when harvested, a significant percentage was lost during processing, transportation and storage.

Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Professor of History at Michigan State University, states that the Ukraine was hit particularly hard by grain quotas which were set at levels which most farms could not produce. The 1933 harvest was poor, coupled with the extremely high quota level, which led to starvation conditions. The shortages were blamed on kulak sabotage, and authorities distributed what supplies were available only in urban areas. According to The Centre for Economic Policy Research, a paper published in 2021 by Andrei Markevich, Natalya Naumenko and Nancy Qian, regions with a higher Ukrainian population were struck harder by centrally planned policies as Ukrainian populated areas were given lower amounts of tractors which were correlated to a reduction in famine mortality. Ultimately, it concluded that 92% of famine deaths in the Ukraine alone along with 77% of famine deaths in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus combined can be explained by the systematic bias against Ukrainians.

As you will be aware, the Ukraine is called 'The breadbasket of Europe'. Ukrainian land is amongst the most fertile land in the world. It accounts for 12% of global wheat exports, 16% of corn and 18% of barley. That is why the Russian invasion of Ukraine will negatively influence food supply and the price of food in the world. If you combine that with drought in Africa and other climatic changes that negatively affect agriculture - be ready for bigger hunger in the world and more humanitarian catastrophes.

Sources: Wikipedia and website of National museum of Holodomor genocide.