International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932–33 Famine in Ukraine.
The Final Report (1990)

The Report was delivered to the UN Under-Secretary for Human Rights in Geneva on May 9, and to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on May 10, 1990. The Archives were deposited with the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, and a copy of same with the Stockholm University

The 1990s have experienced greater changes than anybody would have dreamed of in the earlier post-war periods: the collapse of the Socialist Camp, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the great leap east-wards of the Council of Europe, bringing a hundred million new Europeans under the European Convention on Human Rights. These great events created a period of euphoria in most of Europe. But suddenly euphoria was replaced by horror, stories beginning to emerge about what was taking place in the disintegrating state of Yugoslavia.

The genocide taking place in former Yugoslavia was a grim reminder of how little hade been achieved since the world, from the Nuremberg Trials, had learned the new term `genocide' and the horrors that it meant. However, while the total defeat of Germany in the second world war had stimulated research on an uprecedented scale about the structure, decision-making and philosophy in Hitler's murderous State, not much attention had focused on the workings in its main adversary, the Soviet Union. The Yugoslav disaster suddenly brought into daylight that here was a state in disintegration in which structure, decision-making and philosophy was all a close copy of conditions in the Soviet Union. To those who had experienced the end of the second world war on the losing side, stories came to mind about what had happened at that time which much too much resembled the stories coming out of former Yugoslavia.

The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the FormerYugoslavia Since 1991, sitting in The Hague, has yet to render its first judgment. There are few studies on how responbitility is distributed in a Party State of the Soviet type. In the end, however, the tribunal in The Hague will have to come to grips with those issues.

This makes strangely relevant the inquiry that has been carried out by the International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine. At the time when the Commission was set up, the over riding purpose was to establish the truth, before all eyewitnesses were dead, about this killer famine which had been denied by the Soviet authorities for so long.

It meant putting history on trial. Recommendations as to responsibility was simply an add-on, because at that time - 1988 - only one in the Soviet leadership of the time had survived, viz. Lazar Kaganovitch. He died at the age of 97 on July 26, 1991.

Recommendations as to responsibility was a rather academic exercise. Nevertheless, the International Commission of Inquiry did make a thorough study of the organizational background behind this government-inflicted genocide, that killed not less than 7,5 million direct victims according to the Commission's best estimate, in order to arrive at a conclusion as to responsibility. The organization could be followed through a paper trail that included orders, decrees and indeed legislation, and it was also possible to look at the parallel Party organization behind this statutory facade. At the time (1990), this study seemed to be of little practical value. Today it may be one of the better instruments to penetrate the workings of a similar deadly organization and philosophy in former Yugoslavia.

The recurrence of massacres and genocides, when other governements have succumbed to Communist takeovers in years past, may have something to do with features in the Marxist philosophy. The attitude to hu man life, that made the genocide in Ukraine possible, is something deeply ingrained in the Marxist philosophy. Man is reduced to an economic factor, like labour in the abstract, and that implies a similar attitude to human suffering. Compared with the realization of the Communist ideal, the life and death of the individual is a matter of indifference; why, therefore, trouble about his personal conditions, diseases and sufferings? These attitudes prevailed in the Soviet Union of the 1930s.

It remains to be seen if they also can be discovered in former Yugoslavia. There can be no doubt however that the massive study performed by the International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine here will have a lot to contribute when dissecting genocide in our present days.

IOIR 109

Jacob W.F. Sundberg

På inbjudan av Ukrainas utrikesminister Volodomyr Ogryzko deltog jag i minneshögtiden 22.11.2008 i Kiev av 75-årsdagen av den ukrainska hungersnöden
och höll ett kort anförande på engelska om Sundbergkommissionen inför ett auditorium med fem statschefer och en månghundrahövdad församling.
I förlängningen därav uppsöktes jag i Stockholm av makan till Ukrainas President Viktor Yushchenko, Kateryna Yushchenko, och dekorerades av henne 5.4.2009 med Ukrainas särskilda förtjänstmedalj.

Top of page