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FAMINE – A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY? OR GENOCIDE? DEATH BY STARVATION – HOLODOMOR IN UKRAINE 1932-1933

FAMINE – A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY? OR GENOCIDE? DEATH BY STARVATION – HOLODOMOR IN UKRAINE 1932-1933

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Renate Stark. Originally submitted for MH101 at NUI Maynooth, with lecturer Abdullahi El-Tom in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Renate Stark. Originally submitted for MH101 at NUI Maynooth, with lecturer Abdullahi El-Tom in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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05/13/2014

 
FAMINE – A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY? OR GENOCIDE?DEATH BY STARVATION – HOLODOMOR IN UKRAINE 1932-1933INTRODUCTION
 
“Ethiopia plans ‘Live Aid’ appeal – Millions of people face starvation followingdrought, floods and policy failures – Drought hitting the Western Sahel region”
(BBCNews 15/08/2007)
“Millions in Africa face starvation because of failed harvests”
(The Guardian, 11/08/2008)
“Starvation in Kenya due to drought”
(IHF 06/2009)
These quite recent headlines certainly indicate that the myth “Africa has drought,drought causes failed harvest, failed harvest equals famine” is still deeply engrainedin the popular perception of today in relation to the development of famines.However, it has been established by many scholars that famines are, in the majority of cases, man-made and not merely caused by the occurrence of food shortage due tonatural disasters.In this paper I will commence with a brief overview on certain theories of famine,particularly focusing on the entitlement theory established by Sen and Devreux’selaborations on famine and government policy.In particular I will elaborate on the factor of collectivisation and famine as is widelydocumented and investigated that the collectivisation process, carried out bycommunist countries, provoked a counterproductive effect causing widespreadopposition, rebellion and resistance in the peasantry and thus, in many cases, lead tofamines (Bernstein 1984, Devereux 1993, Lin 1990, Livi-Bacci 1993, Tauger 2005).
 
A further focus point will be the concept of famine crime against the background of international law, a field in which the professor of law, David Marcus (2003), hasprovided essential and valuable research and material with his classification of ‘faminogenic behaviour’ into different stages that under certain conditions can beregarded as crime against humanity and indeed as genocide.Based on this theoretical framework I will present a specific example with the case of Holodomor, the famine that occurred in the Ukraine Socialist Soviet Republic (SSR)and Kuban in the early 1930s. Holodomor has long been described as a result of adverse government policy during the first period of Stalin’s collectivisation program,due to which millions of men, women and children lost their lives over a space of nomore than 18 months. However, in recent years it has entered a new level of discussion as the question has been raised to treat Holodomor as more than just aresult of forced collectivisation: Ukrainian nationalists, lead by Viktor Yushchenko,the President of Ukraine from 2005 to 2010, and supported by a number of scholarsfrom a variety of disciplines, have initiated a broad debate over the issue for theUkrainian famine to be placed in the realm of crime against humanity and indeed tobe recognised as genocide. This would be a significant move towards a case of faminecrime in international law, and a call to trial for those who were responsible for theimplementation and execution of faminogenic government policies.
THEORIES OF FAMINE
2
 
In the scholarly literature and research of famine and its causes it has long beendetermined that, contrary to the popular perception of famine as a consequence of natural disaster, drought, flooding or sheer misfortune, affecting only developingcountries, as a matter of fact other more humanly contrived factors are implicated inthe cause of most famines. Many different definitions and theories of famine haveindeed been established, that can be applied to the particular situations. However, allmore recent theories of famine concur in their view that famines, rather than beingcaused by an unforeseeable natural calamity, are actually man-made disasters.Especially when analysing the big famines of the 20th century in Sub-Saharan Africa,Asia and the Soviet Union, this factor can repeatedly be identified.One element of this popular myth that has been particularly and increasinglychallenged is the comparison and indeed equation of famine with ‘shortage of food’.With
his essay
 Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation
(1981)
the scholar Amartya Sen pioneered the claim that rather than food shortage,famine is a problem of entitlement and distribution of food (See Devereux 1993,Osmani 1995). He developed his theory with the example of the famine that occurredin 1943 in Bangladesh, where two to three million people died, despite an adequateavailability of food in the area. The problem was the imbalance in the fooddistribution, resulting in a failure of food entitlement. Sen’s entitlement approach hasbeen analysed by Siddiq Osmani (1995) and further developed and classified. The
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